Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Jaume Balagueró
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Héctor Colomé
I’ll be completely honest, the first time I watched the fourth film in the [REC] franchise, I was severely underwhelmed. I missed the found footage format. I wasn’t big on the transition from creepy apartment building to isolated sea vessel. I couldn’t see much beyond violence, and while violence definitely tends to hold my attention, there’s been a story brewing in these flicks that has always stood out to me as extremely ambitious. I just didn’t see that ambition in [REC] 4: Apocalypse. Until I watched it for a second time last night.
Yes, the tale has undergone a pretty big facelift and yes, the change in filming style is a bit much to deal with. But if you checked out the third [REC] film, which only features a few minutes of found footage format and showcases a completely different tone, you may be ready for the more traditional approach utilized in Apocalypse. Here’s the thing, there’s still an entertaining story to contemplate and the continuity isn’t completely abandoned as I initially felt it had been.
To summarize it extremely briefly, Angela Vidal wakes on a ship because they’re now being quarantined and the government wants no chance of the virus continuing to spread. It actually makes sense. Along with Angela is Guzmán, the man who rescued her from the apartment complex. They’re being examined to ensure they don’t carry the virus. But the monkey they’ve brought on board to study is already infected, and apparently someone else is as well; said monkey is freed from its restraints by an unknown passenger. Suddenly loose, the infected creature targets the ship’s cook and before we know it there are too many zombies to count, all hungry to devour the few healthy humans that remain on board.
It’s nice to see Manuela Velasco return to reprise her role, and Paco Manzanedo does a fine job as the handsome and burly hero. Ismael Fritschi also does a stellar job as Angela’s number one fan, Nic. But the cast isn’t the only shining light of the film. The gore is awfully brutal and the pacing of the picture is excellent. Writer/director Jaume Balagueró does a fine job of bringing viewers up to speed in the first half hour of the film, but he holds nothing back as the final two acts unravel at startling speed. There’s also a claustrophobic sensation that sweeps over the viewer as we watch these unfortunate souls tangle with hyper-aggressive monsters in cramped confines. It all comes together surprisingly well.
If you’re something of a purist, or elitist and you’re dead set in your desire to see the same filming structure showcased in the first and second [REC] features, you may not find Apocalypse too satisfying. But if you’re just out to see a fun, unforgiving zombie pic, this one will indeed leave you feeling as though you got your moneys worth. It may take a second viewing to grow on you (as was the case with me), but [REC] 4: Apocalypse is a savage picture that merits a watch and a fair load of praise.